I’m not sure how long summer days summon a different strain on what I want to read but without looking for it, I begin craving memoir and fiction. Throughout the rest of the year, my regimen largely consists of cookbooks and poetry (stay tuned early autumn for a book of food and poetry in a scintillating way).
If there was a pool nearby, you could find me next to it, slipping off my flip-flops and slipping into someone else’s story—either as they remember it or as it‘s made up.
If you also read throughout the year but your summer appetite’s voracious, you might find something unexpected to pick up from my 2017 summer required reading list below. Several of these books actually were released last year but found enough of a foothold that they made their way to trade paperback this year. Others you can’t help but hear about from interviews on NPR with the author or a splashy cover on Poets & Writers magazine. There’s a bit of variety in this year’s mix. Something to know is to expect full-on book reviews for a few of these titles. The titles are not listed by order of importance, but instead as they are being read. Since I haven’t tackled a few of the titles yet, join me in reading them. I will update this post with a mini synopsis of the books after I’ve read them. I could cheat and share details from the jackets, but even when I was a waitress, I preferred to try the different dishes on the menu so I could better describe them.
2017 Summer Required Reading List
For the historical fiction fan, Feast transports you to ancient Rome through the lens of a cook in their patrician master’s kitchen. Think Downton Abbey meets Rome. This book’s particularly good for the beach. Every reader’s dream is to interview the author and I had a chance to chat with Crystal King about how she brought the world of Apicius to life.
I became acquainted with Dillon years ago through his now defunct music band and regularly attended his shows. I knew he moved onto start a non-profit, produce a documentary about childhood slavery but never really understood how that all fit together. In Selfish Plan, his premise is simple. All that makes you you is what the world needs to challenge the big issues of our time that seem insurmountable. It’s deeply inspiring and has hit me time and again with hopeful truths that any reader might pick up on: why are we here? What are we here to do? His prose reads like poetry, evidence of deep roots in music.
You may have heard by now the underlying story to Hunger already, and no spoilers here, but Gay addresses with such piercing the prismatic reality of being fat in America—a taboo topic usually tabled in place of side eye, cutting remarks, and the like. There are moments in reading the memoir where I stepped away because it felt too relatable and other parts I can’t relate to at all. One question she fielded in a KQED interview recently is something I’m still chewing on too. I found light in her chapter on Ina Garten and renewed appreciation for her writing.
This book startled me. I thought I had it figured out based on the synopsis printed on the back but it exceeded any expectations of a Kitchen Confidential meets coming-of-age (aka coming-to-the-City) tale. The author does a tremendous job depicting the allure and camaraderie of the restaurant family making me want to go join their ranks but then turning that notion onto its head, not allowing it to become sentimental. She uses this tactic of poetic form to distill moments in the book with clarity. One of the most interesting devices in the book is that the heroine is not named until page 216, (the book is only 352 pages long) supporting the idea that this heroine wants to be anyone other than who she is until the ultimate moment of clarity when the reader and heroine can’t see any other possibility than the one she’s to take.
- The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
- Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
- The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
- A Year Right Here by Jess Thomson
- The Wangs vs the World by Jade Chang
- Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
What are your don’t-miss books this summer? Have you read any of the books on my list?